With the strongest storm in a decade in the forecast, we figured it would be a good time to go test our snow camping skills and gear, so we went for an overnighter at the portal :-). We hiked in Sunday noon and back out on Monday.
Sunday noon we parked around the 7k level where it was raining; we figured that would be a good spot since the forecast didn't call for a snow level much lower than 8k. With only about 12 inches in the forecast for the portal, we ditched the snow shoes as well. We made quick time up to the Meysan Lakes area where the snow had become deeper quickly in the last quarter mile. There we were greeted by Dotty who owns one of the cabins up there. She invited us in for a hot cup of chocolate; her husband had gone down the road to park the car lower at the "road closed" sign to avoid getting stuck in the snow.
After some chatting, we continued our trek up to the portal, now through a few feet of powder but still pretty easygoing. We dug our tentsite in the middle of the road away from any trees and avalanche prone areas (which we heard all the way through the night). It kept snowing non-stop and we had a feeling this forecast was way off; we woke up to at least 4 feet of new snow. In places it was now up to shoulder level and our trench from the day before was gone! We kinda wished we had our snow shoes now but they probably would've been dead weight anyway since at least the upper elevations had WAY too much snow. We alternated the strenuous task of shoveling our way down the road. Shortly after Meysan Lakes, we spotted Dotty and Graham following our trench (they were probably worried about getting stuck at the cabin). It took us about 8.5h to make the 2.5mi down to the car. Unfortunately the snow level was more like 5k and the car was covered by at least 3 feet of snow. We contemplated sleeping in the car but the idea of a bed in Lone Pine sounded much more appealing. We called a few peops and Doug offered to pick us up at the Lone Pine campground since he didn't think he could get much higher through the snow. We made quick time to the campground and soon were in the warmth of the hostel (thanks Doug). I was a little worried about Dotty and Graham since they were far behind us and it was now dark. We later heard they only made it to their car at 4am! So, it took them about 16h! My hat off for perseverance. Unfortunately their car was stuck as well; Doug picked them up a few hours later.
All in all we had a great trip (except for being down a car :-). Our main challenge was probably staying dry because it snowed non-stop.
The pictures can be found here